Talking tithing: Matt. 6:19-24

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by Jeff Gowling

Someone had better tell Jesus that it is taboo to talk to Christians about their money. He doesn’t seem to get it. In fact he talks more about money and possessions than he does about heaven and hell combined. And in Matthew 6:19-24, he’s at it again.

Jesus shares two hugely significant principles related to money in these verses:

  1. There is perhaps no clearer and measurable indicator of where our heart truly is. It’s not church attendance. It’s not participation in an outreach event. What does Jesus say is an indicator of where your heart is? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v.21).
  2. In the area of money, there is a battle for our souls. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (v.24). Could those battle lines be any clearer? You can’t kind of love both. It’s God versus your money. You will be mastered by one or the other.

The tithe was an Old Testament law to ensure that Israel was putting God first with their finances. Ten percent of everything was to be given to God (Lev. 27:30-32). In fact, God declared that if they did not bring the tithe (what I like to call the divine portion) they were robbing him (Mal. 3:8-9).

When Jesus comes along in the New Testament, he seems to indicate that our generosity with our money should dwarf the Old Testament law standard of the tithe. He doesn’t tell the rich young ruler to sell 10 percent, he tells him to sell it all and to follow him (Luke 18:22). When the church is established in the book of Acts, they didn’t sell 10 percent of their stuff. It says, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:45).

I appreciate the practical advice of Randy Alcorn in his book The Treasure Principle: “It’s unhealthy to view tithing as a place to stop, but it can still be a good place to start.”

So how are you doing in this critical area? Is God getting at least 10 percent of your income?

Recently I asked our church financial secretary to crunch some numbers and estimate how many of our people seem to be tithing (10 percent). It’s not an exact science but she determined that just under 15 percent appear to be tithing. In light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, could it be that 85 percent of my church family is choosing their money over God? Ouch.

I’m convinced that materialism and the pursuit of the American Dream is the most prevalent idol in our culture today. I urge you, slay that enemy in your life. Give generously to God and watch His grace abound to you (2 Cor. 9:6-8).

 

Jeff Gowling is lead pastor at The Bridge Bible Church in Bakersfield, Calif.

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